New Outlook for Preventing Peanut Allergies

shutterstock_348863390Millions of children in the United States suffer from food allergies, and the most common dietary culprit for kids is peanuts. Growing awareness of peanut allergies has led to peanut-free camps, childcare facilities, and schools.

For years, the common belief among experts was that avoiding peanuts altogether was the best solution, but that philosophy has shifted in the wake of recent studies showing children introduced to peanut products (not peanuts themselves, which are a serious choking hazard) at a young age had a sharply lower risk of developing a peanut allergy—up to 80 percent lower.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), after years of recommending that families with any peanut allergy history avoid feeding infants any peanut products when they start on solid food, has changed course. The AAP now advises pregnant women not to avoid any particular food groups in hopes that the exposure will reduce food allergies in children long-term.

The most recent evidence backing the research comes from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which issued new guidelines for doctors and parents. The guidelines address how to safely expose children to peanuts from an early age, and divide babies into three groups.

The first includes those with severe eczema or are already allergic to eggs—they are considered at high risk of developing a peanut allergy. The NIAID advises these babies be tested for a peanut allergy, and parents should consult their doctor about how and when to introduce peanut products. A doctor should be contacted very early, in the two- to four-month range.

For the other two groups—babies with mild to moderate eczema and those without any known allergies—testing isn’t necessary, although parents should still consult a doctor about their child’s situation. For these babies, the guidelines call for parents to introduce peanut products gradually, in small amounts, beginning at six months.

Parents can check on the status of a doctor’s license at the Medical Board of California’s website (www.mbc.ca.gov).

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

blog_posterFluoridated water is the focus of the American Dental Association‘s (ADA’s), message for this year’s National Children’s Dental Health Month.

The slogan “Choose Tap Water for a Sparkling Smile” is featured on the ADA 2017 campaign poster as part of its effort to promote good oral health for young people and their caregivers. Decades of research have shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25 percent.

Simply by drinking water, both young and old can benefit from fluoride’s cavity protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

The ADA says the average teenage boy in the U.S. consumes 81 gallons of soft drinks a year. A steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth, especially for those who snack throughout the day. Common activities can also contribute to tooth decay,including habitually grazing on foods with minimal nutritional value and frequently sipping on sugary drinks.

The ADA offers these tips to reduce potential tooth decay in kids:

  • Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
  • If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless—chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
  • Monitor beverage consumption: Instead of sipping soft drinks all day, children should choose water or low-fat milk.
  • Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
  • Schedule regular dental visits.

To find a qualified dentist, visit the Dental Board of California website to do a license search.

Coloring and puzzle activity sheets promoting oral health for kids are available in both English and Spanish on the ADA website.

Drought Conditions Still Persist in Some Areas of the State

After a series of super-soaker storms descended on much of California in January, the obvious question is: Is the state still in a drought?

The short answer is it depends on what part of the state you’re talking about.

Source: California Department of Water Resources

Source: California Department of Water Resources

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) estimates 60 percent of the state in Central and Southern California still faces “moderate” or “severe” drought conditions.

“Much of the state has not recovered from the severe drought conditions that have persisted for the past four years,” the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) stated in a news release. “Moreover, measurements by the Department of Water Resources indicate that the statewide snowpack is about 70 percent of average for early January.”

Northern California reservoir storage is healthy, while watersheds to the south still lag behind. Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville are at 82 and 81 percent of capacity, respectively, while Terminus and Isabella reservoirs in the southland are at just 31 and 35 percent of capacity, respectively.

On January 3, the Department of Water Resources’ first snow survey of the season in the Sierra Nevada mountains, where the snowpack makes up about one-third of California’s water supply, totaled just 70 percent of the historic average for that date. However, that figure should rise sharply when the next survey is conducted after a series of storms dumped several feet of the white stuff in the ensuing two weeks.

Facing unprecedented drought conditions statewide, in 2015, SWRCB ordered 400 urban water districts to cut usage by an average of 25 percent compared to 2013. With conditions improving significantly in many regions, SWRCB backed off those restrictions in May, allowing many water districts to set conservation targets based on projected shortages.

After a water-logged January, the SWRCB is debating whether to lift all drought regulations as much of the state receives above-average precipitation for the first time in years. The Board is likely to vote February 7 on lifting the eased restrictions.

Find out more about the drought and water conservation at www.saveourwater.com.

MMA Event Gets an Unintentional Promo From Hollywood

Mixed martial arts (MMA) and, specifically, the Bellator 170 event at the L.A. Forum in Inglewood on January 21, made headlines last week after gaining attention from an unlikely source–famed actress Meryl Streep.

Bellator MMA boss Scott Coker invited Meryl Streep to a fight after she mentioned MMA in a Golden Globes acceptance speech on January 8. Photo/JOSH HEDGES/FORZA LLC/FORZA LLC VIA GETTY IMAGES; PAUL DRINKWATER/NBCUNIVERSAL VIA GETTY IMAGES

Bellator MMA boss Scott Coker (above) invited Meryl Streep (inset) to attend Bellator 170 after she mentioned MMA in a Golden Globes acceptance speech on January 8. Photo/JOSH HEDGES/FORZA LLC/FORZA LLC VIA GETTY IMAGES; PAUL DRINKWATER/NBCUNIVERSAL VIA GETTY IMAGES

After receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Streep gave a politically charged acceptance speech, part of which was aimed at Donald Trump’s negative stance on illegal immigrants. It was at that point that she gave MMA and football an unintentional boost.

“So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners,” Streep said, “and if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”

The off-the-wall reference received national media attention, much of it focusing on the fact that MMA is an extremely diverse, global sport. As the Washington Post headline said, “Meryl Streep slammed mixed martial arts. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.”

Scott Coker, the president of MMA promotional company Bellator—which is putting on the event headlined by Chael Sonnen versus Tito Ortiz with oversight from the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC)—seized the opportunity to formally invite Streep to Bellator 170 via Twitter.

Bellator's Scott Coker posted this tweet on January 8, inviting Meryl Streep to attend Bellator 170.

Bellator’s Scott Coker posted this tweet on January 8, inviting Meryl Streep to attend Bellator 170.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There has been no word if Streep will accept the invitation, but the jolt of publicity surely helped shine a light on the worldwide reach and diversity of MMA.

 

The High Price of Insulin

The cost of another life-saving drug has dramatically increased.

Back in September, the price of a two-pack of EpiPens, a widely used medication for severe allergic reactions, skyrocketed to $614—up from $100 back in 2007. The next drug with a soaring price tag: insulin.

However, unlike EpiPens, insulin drugs must be taken on a daily basis. This can be extremely costly, especially when you’re looking at possibly $120 to $400 per vial of insulin per month, according to a Johns Hopkins Medicine shutterstock_525594898news release in March 2015. Additionally, unlike many other drugs, there are no generics on the market.

According to an October Washington Post article, a vial of insulin cost $17 in 1997 and is today priced at $138. Another version with a price of $21 per vial 20 years ago now costs $255. If you have health insurance, the list price may not be apparent. But if you are uninsured, have gaps in insurance, or have high-deductible health insurance, the price you’ll pay will be alarmingly clear.

There is debate as to why the cost has risen so sharply. Drug companies defend the pricing, stating there have been improvements over the years to the drugs; for example, newer versions of insulin are longer-lasting. However, some experts say the improvements don’t justify the higher pricing and are part of an overall strategy to keep prices high with new patent protections.

Not taking insulin or trying to save money by not taking a full dosage can be a decision with dire consequences for those with diabetes. It can lead to hospitalization and life-threatening situations such as a coma and kidney failure. Always check with your pharmacist about how to properly take your medication and carefully follow all instructions (visit the state Board of Pharmacy website at www.pharmacy.ca.gov to find a properly licensed pharmacist).

There is hope, however. According to The Washington Post. efforts are being made to create cheaper insulin options. For instance, Walmart sells an insulin version that is $25 per vial, and Eli Lilly is expected to release a less-expensive version by the end of this year.

In the meantime, patients facing high insulin prices should do all they can to properly manage their health, as well as talk to their doctors about the best options and do research on drug assistance programs. Visit the American Diabetes Association website for more information.

Millions of Washing Machines Recalled

Samsung has recalled 2.8 million washing machines after receiving hundreds of reports of excessive vibration or the top of the washing machine detaching completely from the frame, including nine reports of impact injuries Untitled-1such as a broken jaw, injured shoulder, and other fall-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The recall affects 34 models of top-loaded washers sold nationwide since March 2011. Front-loaded Samsung washing machines are not part of the recall.

The CPSC recommends consumers contact Samsung immediately to receive one of three remedy options: (1) a free in-home repair that includes reinforcement of the washer’s top and a free one-year extension of the manufacturer’s warranty; (2) a rebate to be applied toward the purchase of a new Samsung or other brand washing machine, along with free installation of the new unit and removal of the old one; (3) a full refund for consumers who purchased their washing machine within the past 30 days of the recall announcement (November 4).

More information on the recall and a list of affected model numbers from the CPSC are here.

Samsung can be contacted at www.samsung.com and toll-free at (866) 264-5636.

The Department of Consumer Affairs reminds California consumers in need of appliance repair to check with the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation (www.bearhfti.ca.gov) to confirm that a repair person is licensed and in good standing.

 

Get Ready to Cast Your Ballot

vote2If you have grown weary of political-ad rhetoric and sound bites, take heed—Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. Here are a few last-minute guidelines before you vote:

  • The California Secretary of State’s website (www.sos.ca.gov) is a great resource for election and voter information, including finding the location of your polling place and an official Voter Information Guide (www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov) in 10 languages.
  • There are no fewer than 17 propositions on the ballot—ranging from recreational marijuana to single-use plastic bags—and the Secretary of State’s website breaks down each one with nonpartisan information that includes a summary, what your vote means, and pro and con arguments (www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/en/propositions).
  • Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Personally delivered ballots must be delivered by close of polls on November 8; mailed ballots must be postmarked on or before November 8 and received by your county elections office no later than November 14.
  • Multiple media reports have exposed a social media scam that claims to “save time, avoid the line” by texting your vote for president. Don’t fall for it— if you want your vote to count, visit the polls on November 8!

Don’t Put Your Eyes at Risk With Cosmetic Contacts for Halloween

shutterstock_contactsIf you are going all-out on a Halloween costume, complete with cosmetic contact lenses that make your eyes extra spooky, be aware of potential hazards from cheap, nonprescription contacts.

Wearing cosmetic contacts purchased at gas stations, flea markets, or costume shops—any place that doesn’t require a prescription—can damage your eyes in several ways, including corneal scratches, infections, and allergic reactions that can cause impaired vision or temporary or permanent loss of sight.

Selling cosmetic contacts without a state license is against the law, and businesses doing so are operating illegally. Out-of-state companies selling contacts on the Internet to residents of California must be licensed and are required to verify your prescription with your eye doctor.

Although the contacts are not intended for vision correction, it is still vital they fit your eyes correctly. If you don’t have a current prescription, you will need to have your eyes examined by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist; if you have a current prescription, your eye care professional can give you a copy.

Ophthalmologists are eye surgeons licensed by DCA’s Medical Board of California. They perform surgeries for problems caused by diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, and also treat eye diseases and prescribe corrective lenses. Optometrists are licensed by DCA’s State Board of Optometry. They conduct examinations for overall health of the eyes, screen for diseases, and also prescribe corrective lenses.

You can check Medical Board licensees’ records online at www.mbc.ca.gov, and State Board of Optometry licensees at www.optometry.ca.gov.

If you do get a prescription for cosmetic contacts, buy them from a licensed optometrist, ophthalmologist, or registered dispensing optician, and be sure to follow directions for caring for and wearing them properly.

Cal Fire Cracks Down on Drones

When working to stop a wildfire, time is of the essence. Firefighters have minutes to hold back a blaze, and any disruptions can cost property and lives.

During the recent Trailhead Fire, firefighting operations were disrupted by a hobby drone flown above the fire to take personal videos and photos. The drone operator was arrested for allegedly interfering with the firefighting efforts in that area.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), there has been a surge in hobby drones interfering with firefighting efforts over the last two years. Cal Fire recently launched its “If You Fly, We Can’t!” campaign, asking the public to never fly drones near wildfires.

“When a hobby drone flies in the path of our aircraft, we have no choice but to pull back our airtankers and helicopters until the drone is removed,” said Cal Fire Chief Dave Teter, deputy director of fire protection.

Aerial firefighting aircraft, such as planes and helicopters, fly at very low altitudes to drop fire retardant and water onto the fire. If a drone flies in the same air space, fire officials have to pull back the aircraft to avoid midair collisions.

To report irresponsible drone operators flying their drones close to disasters and emergencies, call 1-844-DRONE11 (1-844-376-6311). For more information, visit the Cal Fire website at www.fire.ca.gov.

 

Uber Settlement Addresses Service Animal Lawsuit

Ride-hailing company Uber has asked a District Court in Northern California to approve a proposed settlement to a lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind’s California chapter over refusing rides to passengers with service animals such as guide dogs.

The National Federation of the Blind’s lawsuit, filed in 2014, stated that Uber was in violation of the Amguide_dogs_photoericans with Disabilities Act for denying rides to persons with service animals.

The proposed settlement by San Francisco-based Uber has three major components.

First, the company said it will take steps to make it clearer to drivers through notifications on the Uber platform and via e-mail that they are obligated to transport any passenger with a service animal. With settlement approval, Uber also said it would publish a service animal policy as part of its code of conduct.

Second, the company said that any driver who refused service to a passenger with a service animal would be barred from using the Uber platform.

Third, Uber would pay the National Federation of the Blind $225,000 over three years. The Federation would run a “testing program” to evaluate the effectiveness of the changes. This program would involve passengers with service animals testing the service to ensure policy changes are implemented.

The State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind’s website, www.guidedogboard.ca.gov, offers information and videos on rights, etiquette, and other information for consumers, guide dog teams and trainers, and businesses. You can also call the Board toll-free at (866) 512-9103 or send and e-mail to guidedogboard@dca.ca.gov for more information.